Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post listed the wrong candidate in House District 137. John F. Black, former in-house counsel for City Utilities in Springfield, was the Republican candidate facing Democratic attorney candidate Raymond Lampert. We regret the error.
Because Black is a lawyer, the numerical analysis in the original story has been revised.
Also, Matt Sain, the Democrat who won the House District 14 race, has earned his law degree but has not yet been licensed to practice law. He is currently a law clerk at Bautista LeRoy.
Missouri voters go to the polls on Nov. 6 to pick the next Missouri Legislature and, with it, a new crop of lawyer-legislators.
A review of campaign biographies, news stories and bar records by Missouri Lawyers Weekly shows a total of 36 lawyers running for seats in the Missouri House and Senate. Although there’s no telling with certainty what the election will bring, the Senate appears likely to increase its lawyer ranks, while the number in the House could shrink.
Following the 2016 election, the 163-member House had 22 lawyers, while the 34-member Senate dipped to a historical low of just two attorneys.
Lawyers once made up as much as 38 percent of the legislature, peaking in the first years of the 20th century, according to figures maintained by The Missouri Bar. But since 1976, that percentage rarely has exceeded 15 percent.
The Missouri Bar doesn’t back individual candidates, but the organization touts the importance of having lawyers serve in the legislature, both to understand the workings of the legal system and to help ensure laws are well-drafted.
Ray Williams, president of The Missouri Bar, said the bar encourages lawyers to be involved in public service, whether that’s on a school board or in the state legislature.
“The legislature is a very diverse group, but there certainly is value in having lawyer-legislators of whatever the constituency decides the right number is,” he said.
However the numbers fluctuate, many of the current legislature’s most prominent attorneys will be absent next year. Rep. Jay Barnes, who led the House investigation of former Gov. Eric Greitens, is term-limited. Rep. Robert Cornejo was recently appointed to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission. Assistant House Majority Floor Leader Kevin Austin will become the Greene County treatment court commissioner. And House Speaker Todd Richardson was named last week as the new director of MO HealthNet.
The Senate will have at least one lawyer, and it could have as many as five. Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, the sole practicing attorney in the body, is midway through his second four-year term and isn’t on the ballot this year. The only other senator with a law degree is Sen. Bob Onder, R- Lake Saint Louis, a physician who doesn’t practice law. Onder faces a challenge this year from Democrat Patrice Billings.
Two Republican lawyers are running for open seats that previously were held by Republicans. In the 32nd District, Bill White, a Republican state representative and lawyer from Joplin, is running for the seat vacated by Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard. White faces Democrat Carolyn McGowan.
In the 34th District, Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican lawyer in Parkville, is running for the seat previously held by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph. Luetkemeyer faces Martin T. Rucker II, a former professional football player and son of a former state representative.
One incumbent senator faces a challenge from an attorney. Robert Butler, a Democrat from Barnhart and a workers’ compensation lawyer, is seeking to unseat Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial.
A total of 29 House races feature attorney candidates. If all incumbents win and no seat switches parties, 19 lawyers would sit in the House — a drop from current levels. At minimum, the House will feature seven lawyers — five seats sought by lawyers are unopposed, and races for three seats feature a lawyer facing a lawyer, so one of them is certain to win.
One of those lawyer-on-lawyer contests is in District 14 in northern Kansas City. Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City and a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, faces a challenge from Democrat Matt Sain, a law clerk at personal-injury firm Bautista LeRoy.
In District 87 in St. Louis. Democrat Ian Mackey, formerly of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office and ArchCity Defenders, is running against Steven G. Bailey, a Republican lawyer and retired University of Missouri-St. Louis business professor. Robert W. Warbin of the Green Party is also on the ballot.
In District 137, Republican John F. Black, former in-house counsel for City Utilities in Springfield, squares off with Raymond Lampert, an employment lawyer in Springfield.
Twelve other lawyers are vying to join the House in 2019. Most face uphill battles, including six who are running against incumbents:
Four other attorney candidates, all Democrats, are seeking seats currently held by Republicans:
Two lawyer-candidates hope to succeed House members of the same party:
Nine incumbent lawyers face elections against non-lawyer challengers: Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty; Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis; Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres; Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury; David Gregory, R-St. Louis; Bruce DeGroot, R-Chesterfield; Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon; Curtis Trent, R-Springfield; and Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield.
Three incumbent lawyer-legislators — Rep. Cora Faith Walker, D-Ferguson; Rep. Steve Roberts, D-St. Louis; and Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis — are unopposed.
Two other lawyers will be new to the House in 2018 and face no opposition on the November ballot. Robert Sauls, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor, will represent District 21 in Independence. In District 154 in southern Missouri, David Evans, a former 37th Circuit judge, is running unopposed.
*Assumes all incumbents win and no seat switches parties. The Senate has 34 members. The House has 163 members.